In the western United States off-roaders know all too well how the Bureau of Land Management can act as some sort of god, suddenly cutting off access to certain areas all based on accusations or feelings. Even with that well-known dynamic, many enthusiasts are shocked and angry to learn that BLM plans on shutting down hundreds of miles of off-road trails in Moab without caring at all about how that affects the local economy or off-roaders who flock to the area from all over the continent.
More specifically, BLM will bar Jeeps and other off-road rigs from driving on trails in the Gemini Bridges and Labyrinth Canyon areas. Per a plan revealed by the federal government agency in early October, 317.2 miles of trails will be closed to any motorized vehicle.
The move is of course done in the name of protecting the desert environment. Just like with other trail closures, environmentalists who think humans should stay out of nature with their machines, mountain bikes, and even horses are celebrating BLM’s move. But off-road enthusiasts are fuming as they realize what’s left of Jeep trails in the popular recreation area will be more crowded than ever, particularly during events like the Easter Jeep Safari.
— bravosierra048 (@desertjeeper) April 20, 2022
Blue Ribbon Coalition President Ben Burr told The Salt Lake Tribune that the trail closures have more to do with river recreators getting angry and even confrontational with off-roaders in the past several years than most understand. He characterized the BLM plan as “largely unnecessary.”
If what Burr says is in fact true, this is yet another frustrating example of why off-roaders need to be courteous not only to others, but to other outdoor recreators. Treating hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, kayakers, etc. like they’re in the way or are lesser than you in your Jeep only creates bad blood which eventually can help cut off access in certain areas.
The same is true of other less-than-positive trail behaviors like leaving garbage behind and trailblazing. As the old saying goes, all enthusiasts need to live by the rule of leaving an area better than how they found it or they might not be invited back.
Among the popular trails that are no longer accessible to off-roaders is Hell Roaring Canyon, Golden Spike, Courthouse Rock, Hidden Canyon, Mashed Potato, Rusty Nail, Big Draw Trail, plus the Ten Mile Wash area. These closures not only hurt off-roaders but anyone who used the trails to get deeper into the wilderness. In other words, access is being limited for countless outdoors enthusiasts, which might help explain why environmentalists are so happy with the decision.
Image via Stellantis